Student Feedback

I always ask for feedback from students right after the first exam before they know how they did. I find the three questions below to be very useful in guiding students to be reflective about their learning and our class. Every time I do this, I am taken back by how thoughtful college students can be about their learning.

All and all the biggest complaints from students are about the reading material itself and the computer exercises. Last semester, students also complained about the computer exercises. I’m not a big fan of either. Students do seem happy about standards-based assessment and explicitly talking about multiple strategies to solve problems (especially ones that don’t involve plugging into equations).

I’ve put in red the things that really stand out to me.

What are we doing in class that is helpful for you learning? Why is it helpful?

Doing problems during lecture and showing how to work through it different ways. Being able to retake the content standards so you can see where your problem is and work through it. Working in groups in lab is helpful that way there are more people to help you understand it.

I love how it’s structured so you’re in charge of mastering 4 main topics a week. It makes it really easy to wrap my head around knowing exactly what I need to learn instead of a teacher saying, “Oh. Learn chapter 8.”And I also love the side paths, like learning about how to learn, mainly just because psychology is so interesting to me.

Working through a lot of problems and going through in detail and step by step. Working together in groups. Finding the wrong way to do the problems.

I get to communicate what I think. Do hands on activities. And the card questions.

It really helps when we work in groups. I am able to better understand things better when I can discuss/converse with others about the problems**

Group activities. Reason being we get to share ideas, notice errors and correct them. Especially in this course, the group work helps a whole lot. Having to retake standards are also helpful.

The standards. If I get the problems wrong, it makes me want to keep working to get it right.

Relating the problems to actual events in life, the ability to mentally picture what is being discussed helps.

I like the way things are broken to where it makes sense logically and not just formulas.

When we go over problems, it helps me to understand how to successfully do the problems. The way that you grade quizzes and give them back quickly is also helpful.

Everything. Working out problems and going through scenarios are very helpful, because it helps put my everyday life into perspective, so that I question things and strive to figure out different methods for answering the same question.

You simplify things. You don’t just give formulas and make us plug and chug. I understand the “story” to each number I’m plugging in.

I find that going over example problems is helpful because it makes concepts easier to understand

The review and group work we do is very helpful!

We talk about a couple of different ways of doing things to come up with correct answer. This helps, because I can use the different methods.

The real life applications and working it out on the board. Doing the multiple choice questions also help me learn because I hear others’ opinions.

The lecture are helpful because it translates the “greek” of the online content to plain english and relates it to real life. Labs are actually fun.

Working out problems on the board really helps me learn to solve problems. Group discussion about problems help as well, because I get to see mistakes people make so then I won’t make those mistakes.

When you give an example, work it, then give us another for us to work is helpful. It gives a chance to see it and apply to see if I have really learned it. The activities and labs also allow me to see why things are the way they are.

Working out practice problems is helpful for my learning because it gives me practice and helps me to see how to do problems that are similar to the homework.

In class, when we do example problems and you work them out step-by-step that is helpful because it allows me to see the steps I need to take.

The quizzes are helping because it makes me practice.

You work and explain problems giving us different ways of working them. I am not always the biggest fan of huge equations.

Having an instructor who really explains is helpful. Being in groups that work well, too!

Showing a multitude of ways to solve one problem. It gives me a working perspective.

Going over problems is really helpful. I like that you give us time to answer and then go over it. I also like you show different ways to do the problems. The most helpful thing is you explaining the units in the equations. So that I know why I am using them and what the units mean.

I find the  quizzes because it helps me gage how well I retained the material, but since they aren’t graded, the quiz isn’t stressful. Going over problems in multiple ways–not just plugging math equations helps me visualize what is going on. So Ican better apply the math later.

All of the group discussion helps me. Hearing other people’s strategies to solve problems help me find better ways to solve them. If I talk to someone about a concept, it helps me remember it more. I also like the questions that we hold up cards with.

What are we doing in class that’s not helpful for your learning? Why is that not helpful?

I can’t think of anything that doesn’t help me. Overall, I like lecture and lab much more than the online textbook.

At this point, I’m not sure I take away much from the computer exercises in lab.


Reading the lecture book online. Although it introduces ideas, it confuses me more than it helps me.

None as of now.

Everything we do helps.

When the class votes on right and wrong answers. You ask people how they came to that answer and it makes sense; right or wrong. It can sometimes confuse me later on when thinking which one was right.

It is not helpful when you present multiple ways of solving problems because I get confused on which methods.

I think the computer work isn’t really helpful. I would do more groups @ the tables.

The quizes on the computer during lab is not helpful for me. Also, the nightly quizzes don’t really help me to understand what is going on in class.

I think the computer activities aren’t helpful. Things that I really learn from and apply to others aren’t nearly based on the computer activities.

I think reading helps somewhat, and I know it just part of any class, but I better understand it in class

The online lecture are “meh”, reading and using the exercises is good at best, but I learn much more from in class time. Online content seems harder to understand.

The computer lessons aren’t very helpful because sometimes the questions are very convoluted and difficult to understand.

Once we learn a couple of ways to do it without equations, the equations just confuse me, and I’m not good at memorizing the equation,

I don’t feel like it is helpful to read all the lectures and practice problems before class. Often they confuse me with all the equations and leave me feeling deflated. When I go to class, I feel that what I thought I knew is wrong and almost completely relearn the concept.

I can’t think of anything.

Everything we do is extremely helpful.


Everything we have done has been pretty successful.

I don’t have any complaints.

Narrowing in on the formulas and math. This does not happen often, but we can sometimes get tunnel vision with respect to what numbers are rather than what they mean.

The reading. Sometimes I don’t understand what I’m reading.

The readings. Sometimes. Sometimes the reading tends to be confusing and not easily understandable.We don’t go over the reading in class.

** However, after taking the exam, I feel like I may be basing too much of my confidence on the group work. When it comes to doing a problems by myself, I blank. So although it is probably a personal task that I need to do on my own time. I need to do problems on my own.

I can’t really think of any.

Switching through equations is confusing at times.

A couple of times, it almost seemed like drastically beating a deadhorse, and it was little hard to pay attention.

We aren’t given adequate time for the lab write-ups. I feel sometimes like I’m just going through the motions and not grasping it, just so it’ll get done.

Is there anything else on your mind? Something you’d like to tell me? Something you’d wish we did do that were not?

What really throws me off is how complicated the readings are compared to class. The readings confuse me, especially when I have a question, I have no way of finding an answer in the readings.

I enjoy the random advice you give.

I wish you were grading on a curve.

I really liked having practice test–that was a lot more helpful that trying to guess

I love your passions for physics and allowing me the chance to succeed. Also, the videos we watch helps me understand how to learn.

I feel pretty good about this class.

It is difficult to balance all of things going on in my life, one at a time would even be difficult.

I am very worried about the discrepancy between what we are going over in class and lab and what re read each night. Which part of class should I focus on?

I enjoy that you learn and talk with us, not as much you talking at us.

It is not hard to get up and go to class, unlike my other classes.

I appreciate your enthusiasm for learning and teaching. It makes me want to try harder and really learn for a reason.

What helps me most I practice problems and doing them multiple times. It would be beneficial if homework was turned in everyday, so that I could spend more time learning how to solve problems and less time on the quizzes.

To me, the readings are confusing, because they present the material so differently than you do. I like the way you present it better.

I can tell you really enjoy teaching and it makes me eager to learn. I’ve taken physics before and this time its’ much easier. Everything fits together and makes sense.

I really like being able to retake any quiz. It really forces you to learn the information. I also like how fast grades are given back.

It would be nice to see some of the homework problems worked out, but then again, it might make me not do them the night before.

Could you possibly go over more homework problems from the book?

I don’t like the way the online text teaches. It is very hard to understand because they seem to make solutions to problems much more difficult than they need to be. It throws me off to have such a difference between the textbook explanations and classroom explanations.

5 thoughts on “Student Feedback

Add yours

  1. I have a sincere question that might sound rhetorical. How do you have time to do this? That is, to prepare, grade quickly, transcribe their responses, post to your blog, read others’ blogs, etc. (and buy a house)? Do you think you’re particularly good at organizing your time? Does it come at the expense of getting research done? (doubtful – you just had a paper accepted, right?). How many hours a day do you think you work? Do you feel like your pace of work is sustainable? Feel free to email me if this isn’t a good blog conversation. I’m in awe. This is really amazing stuff you’re doing.

    1. It does come at the expense of not getting research done. The truth is that I wouldn’t get much (or any) research done if it weren’t for people tugging at me– Rachel pulling me to get a dissertation paper published; you and I collaborating on a grant; Renee Michelle trying hard to keep our writing group together; folks at Maine really wanting to see the work I did come to fruition.

      I certainly wouldn’t be happy doing research all the time, and that’s why I chose to be where am I. I’d say I probably “work” from about 6:00am to 4pm, sometimes later, and then another hour or two in the evening. I avoid working on Saturdays at all costs,and put in a few hours on Sunday. I don’t know if it’s sustainable… I think you’d have to ask Bethany. There are certainly weeks in a semester where it does not feel sustainable… like when we were buying a house, like when I decided to teach topics out of my comfort zone, etc. I suppose we’ll see how sustainable it is… I’m a living experiment.

  2. Two questions:
    1) There were a couple references to discussions about learning how to learn, including a video. What did you show them and what was the discussion about?

    2) In response to this student’s comment:
    “You ask people how they came to that answer and it makes sense; right or wrong. It can sometimes confuse me later on when thinking which one was right.”
    I had the same problem myself in a class last year. The teacher put tons of emphasis on students explaining their thinking and having the class try to figure out the right answer through discussion. I was totally on board with the educational value of sharing different ways of thinking about the question, but a lot of times after the discussion I couldn’t actually remember what the right answer was. I think the problem for me might have been that many people would express many different ways of thinking about the problem but when we finally got to something right there was still no explanation of what exactly was wrong about the other explanations. As a result, I’m not sure my thinking patterns, or my classmates’, really changed during the semester in the ways they ideally would have (ie, misconceptions persisted). But that’s just my experience – I’m not assuming at all that that is what’s happening in your class. Your student’s comment got me thinking about my class again, and I’m wondering whether you have ideas about how you can allow incorrect explanations, which expose misconceptions that are useful to talk about, without having those incorrect explanations stick in students’ minds?

    1. We watched Derek Muller’s video on Khan Academy; we watched the video described in this blog post. We then talked about Carol Dweck’s research on mindset and the difference between being praise on fixed attributes, being praised on effort, and descriptive praise. Stuff about descriptive praise can be found in books like, “How to talk to so kids can learn.” Our discussion were about the relationship between everyday ideas and physics learning, about how to study, and about the voice in your head that speaks to you when you succeed or don’t succeed.

      With discussion, I try to make sure we discuss both why correct explanations are correct, and why incorrect explanations are correct. I end up doing that explaining sometimes, but many times, I try to push for people to construct counter arguments. Last week, we were talking about some really tough questions one day, which most of the faculty in my department get wrong when I ask them. I know that sometimes students won’t like it. One reason for asking for their feedback is for them to have a venue for telling me, and for them to feel like they’ve been heard; and then for me to reiterate why I think it’s important. Sometimes their feedback leads me to change what I do.

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